Modified Image Abroad and at Home
Politics: Common Good or Private Gain?
PM Modiji pole-vaulted to great heights with his interaction with SARC nations, forays to Bhutan and BRICS.His performance at home is a mixed bag of bouquets and brickbats, more of agonies than ecstasies!
Politics has become a dirty world. Utter the word and you drive people crazy to take a stand for or against, more to divide than to unite them for a common cause. Yet politics is and ought to be all about common good, common weal, maximum amount of good for the maximum number of people in a democracy. In that sense politics should be the one field which should attract all well-meaning people with idealism, vision, conviction and willingness to strive for the common good and serve especially the less fortunate.
But the fact is that the vast majority in the country, especially the electorate, think of politics, due to their experience in the last decades, as a resort of cheats, looters, criminals and cutthroats, a necessary evil to be tolerated than promoted. The lion’s share of blame for this thinking should be borne by parties that ruled the country long, especially the congress. The axiom: corruption of the best becomes the worst, is perhaps best exemplified in Politics.
Has the Modi Sarkar with an unprecedented majority of 282 in a 543 strong parliament modified matters for the better? It has at least for the 31% who voted for Modi, while the 69%, majority of whom of course were Hindus, which did not, watch and wait, at best to give it issue based support, at worst to grin and bear bad times ahead to suffocating limit.
What was it that prompted the 31% of youth, middle class and the easily gullible unthinking illiterate masses to vote with a vengeance for Modi? On the one hand It was the glittering, alluring, enticing publicity blitz promising the moon of instant development (God alone knows what was meant, nothing was explained.) and the dawn of good times to come, convincingly unleashed in Nazi . Goebbelian style. On the other, it was the desperate compulsion culminating literally in a widespread hatred in people’s mind to shake off an unbearable, unending corruption-filled misrule of a Congress led government and equally corrupt opposition parties. People had no time to think and so they thought any change would be far better than the hell they were in. That reduced the congress to just 44 seats. Weather the grand old party got that message is still very doubtful. If not just forget the party for good.
Proof of the pudding is in the eating. So what about the Modi Sarkar’s performance of promises during the past two months in office? All eyes were eagerly focused first on the railway and national budgets to see Modi’s magic Maidus touch unfolding his promise of “sabka saath sabka vikas (With all, development for all)". The discovery was the common folk got the shock of their life with the announcement of two budgets. Reeling in the frying pan of spiralling prices they were simply thrown literally off into the fire of unprecedented hike in the cost of train travel and all essential commodities. People expected to revel in ecstasy but were forced to regret in unbearable agony. Who needs bullet trains when people are crying for enough ordinary trains on busy routes and enough space, at least standing accommodation, in available trains at affordable cost? Who could ever imagine, by sabka saath,sabka vikas, what Modi meant was he would be all out to sup with the rich, the well to do and the marketing forces to foster and pamper them. not with the have-nots? “Development” unexplained and marketed as treasure chest to be uncovered only on receipt was designed to deceive and it worked.
Whole Man & All Men
When explained, it should have meant Development of the Whole Man and All Men. Whole man includes a whole lot of things: his material needs(food, shelter and clothing); physical needs(health and affordable medical care); intellectual (basic affordable educational facilities); spiritual (freedom to practice one’s religion like every body else); social (freedom to marry and form communities of one’s choice); cultural (to live and let live befitting one’s legitimate taste and choice in music, fine arts and pastime) and undertake anything else a normal person can think of.
Development of all men is and should be a clear call to be all inclusive and exclude none. Only it should start with the last, least, lost, marginalized, neglected and therefore with those most in need of basics to survive on all fronts, not with the affluent top brass. Those who are well-fed and are with full stomachs should wait for the empty stomachs to have their turn for a square meal. This is what development in its authentic totality should have meant, explained and understood. It was neither explained nor understood by those concerned.
During the past two months following the victory, ever so many things happened both in the country and outside. Outside the country, what stand out are actions taken in foreign relations: the handling of SARC nations, Visit to Bhutan and journey to BRICS in Brazil, in each case marching from success to greater success. Inviting the eight SARC nations, especially Pakistan and Sri Lanka two problem neighbours, was a diplomatic master stroke to build bonhomie with close neighbours. It was the best good-will gesture which sweetly forced all of them to comply with a smile of good will in return on becoming PM of the world’s largest democracy.
The highlight of Visit to Bhutan, a small land-locked country of Buddhists and Hindus, also the only country to have officially adopted gross national happiness instead of the gross domestic product as its main development indicator, was the inauguration of India-assisted building of the Supreme Court of Bhutan and laying the foundation stone of the 600MW Kholongchu Hydro-electric project, a joint venture between the two countries to augment happiness in both countries. While it was a gesture of India’s readiness to help develop a neighbour in need, it was also a calculated strategic stroke to have a strong foothold in a country bordering China and India.
Historic Start of NDB
Visit to Brazil on July 16 instead should stand out in history as a red letter day for starting the $100 billion New Development Bank (NDB), an equivalent or an alternative to the existing World Bank and IMF, by the five BRICS members – India, Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa – representing 40 per cent of the world’s population with a collective GDP of $24 trillion. Of course it will become operational only by 2015-16. World Bank and IMF were “offshoots of the 1944 Bretton Woods Conference where 44 allies, including the United States, Britain and France met to rebuild the international economic system while the Second World War was still raging. Over the years the US and Europe ruled these institutions” writes Deccan Chronicle 18/7/14
US the richest county with a GDP of over $16 trillion controls them to its advantage today. What is relevant here is, India will be the chairman of this NDB for the next six years. It thus gives a signal to other groupings of powerful nations that India is up and ready to deal in the global arena on an equal footing and not as a second fiddle in today’s unipolar world. If it works out well, NDB will act as a much needed counterweight to economic domination of rich nations. All are agreed to contribute an equal share to ensure an envisioned equality among members. “If equal vote means equal veto power, like in the UN Security Council, the institution may be doomed,” since only China and Russia have enough excess reserves to fund the NDB, writes Russell Green in the Hindu. We may still take an optimistic view, for the moment.
But what about Modi Sarkar’s performance on the domestic front in the last two months? After all didn’t he say at the BRICS summit: "I come from a land where the idea of the 'whole world being one family' is rooted in our ethos — Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.”? How is this vision translated into action especially here in India in the area of all-inclusiveness? It looks; the feedback received so far has been a mixed bag, more of agony than ecstasy, more of worry than cheer, more of the advent of bad days than of good ones promised. Both ardent supporters and rabid critics, readily gave a two=week honeymoon period to the Modi Sarkar.
For one thing Modi’s too profound Hindutva leaning (recall his: I am a Hindu Nationalist) was all too evident from the very start, from the much publicized and politicized religious ceremony in Varnasi paving the way to his crowning as PM. No one would ever object to a person going to a Temple, Mosque, Church or Gurudwara to seek God’s blessing before taking up the momentous office of the PM of the world’s largest democracy. Nay everyone would have vied with one another to clap in approval of such a humble prayerful gesture had the nationally televised, politicised affaire included not just Hindu Pujaries but also religious leaders from all other major religions of India to make shine his parroted vision of “Vasudeva Kudumbakam”. If that was not possible, it should have been done as a private function not to make it irksome to believers of other religions or non believers kept out as observers and not included as participants.
Whether one likes it or not Modi has been and is still seen by many as an anti Muslim, pro-Hindu RSS man at heart and a divisive person on socio-economic issues as well supporting crony capitalism ever since the Gujarat massacre presided over by him. It was precisely to rectify this negative divisive image that he projected development of all Indians as his election campaign plank and won with brute majority in parliament. But extreme, senseless Hindu communal fringe elements of his admirers see his victory as a license to go public with loose talk of their divisive communal agenda of building a Ram Temple, enforcing uniform civil code, moral policing of night clubs, deciding how and what women should wear etc.
A recent example was the shouting from the housetop of Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s chief patron, Ashok Singhal that BJP has won without the support of Muslims which is a signal to the minority community to respect Hindu sentiment and to see Narendra Modi is as an ‘ideal swayamsevak’ who will deliver on the Hindutva agenda etc. Think also of BJP MLA K Lakshman calling tennis star Sania Mirza, daughter-in-law of Pakistan and not a fit Indian ambassador of Telangana, or of the Siva Sena MP force eating a Muslim canteen Manager in Bombay. When such gratuitous comments and criminal misconduct go unchallenged by Modi or passed over in silence, the very silence itself is interpreted as approval by Modi Sarkar especially by his rabid critics. While the whole world condemns such things BJP stalwarts stubbornly refuse to do so adding insult to injury. The best they do is to distance themselves from such incidents of criminal, communal poisoning which is tarnishing the Modi Sarkar beyond measure.. For instance think of Modi’s silence on the cold blooded murder of the innocent Muslim youth of Pune, hotly and furiously discussed in the press. But Modi kept his mouth shut, Such happenings are provoking too many adverse comments
Budgets and After
Some other too tall election promises were: bringing down spiralling prices, zero tolerance of atrocities against women and corruption, more governess and less government, democratic decision making and execution instead of diktats of just one family or person. So when twin budgets were announced, people rightly expected a string of comforting caresses. Instead what people got was the shock of their life with skyrocketing train fare hike unprecedented in Indian history and increase in prices of petrol, diesel and cooking gas propelling prices of all basic commodities to shoot further. The cry from the crowd was: who wants bullet trains when people are crying for enough ordinary ones on busy routes at least and enough standing space in available rickety trains we have?
As for atrocities against women, any number of rape and brutal murder, too many to list here are happening in UP, Bengal, Bombay and Karnataka. They are exposed and furiously debated in the media but Modi Sarkar pretend not to see or hear them. No action is taken even against a minister accused of rape by the victim herself. On the governess front the whole government machinery seems to be waiting with bated breath to take orders from the all powerful PM who used to be blamed for talking too much during his one man campaign trail. Now the complaint is he has gone mute, keeps journalists at a distance, refuses to take questions from them or takes only loyal ones on his foreign trips.
It is now alleged that Governors are sacked or appointed according to the will and pleasure of Modi, just as it used to be done during UPA government. Thus Amit Sha came to be appointed as party president, bypassing objections from the RSS. Even in the appointment of Chief Justice . recommendations of the collegium are by passed
In addition the take over of very important TV Channels like Media 18 by Ambani his loyalist is seen as tightening grips on free speech. Permitting FDI up to 49% in key financial and industrial sectors, even in defence is seen as a threat to financial independence and national security. In the process many corrupt practices of the UPA are brought back trough back door or introduced with endearing names, all of which are creating a lot of disaffection even among Modi fans and BJP supporters.
People Friendly Offers to Come?
Since the Government is ceased of these developments and can least afford to slide back in popular appreciation, especially since five state elections are to be won soon, Modi Sarkar is said to be busy unleashing quite a number of people friendly projects before it completes its 100th day in office on Sept 3rd juts to woo back those getting alienated from the party. .Manorama daily of July 23rd lists 17 of them..
Some among them are to announce plans to make arrangements to start metros to travel cheap and fast in cities, to provide facilities to reach anywhere in India in 24 hours, to reduce phone rates further to help poorer sections, to replace contract jobs with permanent ones to reduce exploitation of unorganized labour force, to improve the quality of services starting with rural hospitals, setting up monitoring cells to make public corruption, to reduce it at all levels etc. Yes the critics of Modi Sarkar should allow him complete 100 days before rushing to give him a certificate of poor or bad performance. This writer hopes and prays that he gets an A+ certificate on his 100th day in office.Writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org